CBS Plays Softball With Durbin on ObamaCare, Chicago Teachers Strike

On Monday's CBS This Morning, Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell let Illinois Senator Dick Durbin forward the Democratic Party's talking points against Mitt Romney on ObamaCare by tossing him softball questions on the issue. Rose acknowledged that "the Obama health care reform was unpopular in the country", but wondered if Republicans would "be on dangerous ground if the debate becomes health care."

Rose merely prompted Senator Durbin for his take on the Chicago teacher's strike: "Quickly turning to local politics in Chicago, the public schools strike", with O'Donnell adding that "in the end, it's the children who suffer."

The veteran PBS host first asked the Senate majority whip about Romney affirming that he would keep two provisions of ObamaCare: pre-existing conditions and the coverage of adults under 26 on their parents' health plans: "So, what do you make of this Romney – saying that on these two provisions, he wants to keep them - two things that I would assume people – most people are in favor of?" This set up Durbin to reply, in part, that "Governor Romney should understand...[that] the concept of insurance is to bring into the pool healthy people, as well as sick people....That's why the idea of an individual mandate – personal responsibility – was part of Massachusetts, and part of the Obama plan."

Charlie Rose, CBS News Anchor; & Norah O'Donnell, CBS News Anchor | NewsBusters.orgO'Donnell followed up by repeating a talking point of ObamaCare supporters: "That's the whole point, I thought, of ObamaCare, was in order to get more people pre-existing coverage, you had to expand the base and mandate that individuals and employers pay for health insurance." The Illinois Democrat answered by continuing his attack on the Republican presidential candidate: "He's trying to take the popular part - coverage of people with pre-existing conditions - and not acknowledge the basis for it, which is to bring everybody in, as ObamaCare does. So, he's picking and choosing the pieces he likes, but they don't fit....But I think they're on the defensive. As Bill Clinton said, the arithmetic is not on their side."

The two CBS anchors made their beyond kid glove treatment of the teachers strike near the end of the segment. The closest that they got to asking a tough question was when O'Donnell brought up the recent unemployment figures: "This election is still going to be about the economy and jobs, and we had a very disappointing jobs report on Friday: just 96,000 new jobs, well below expectations. How does President Obama and the Democrats get elected, given that there's still so much pain and anxiety out there?"

Even though Rose and O'Donnell had the number two Democrat in the Senate on their program, they didn't ask their guest about his caucus's failure to pass a budget since April 9, 2009.

The full transcript of Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell's interview of Senator Dick Durbin from Monday's CBS This Morning:

CHARLIE ROSE: With us now, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate majority whip. Welcome.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D), ILLINOIS: Good morning.

ROSE: So, what do you make of this: Romney saying that on these two provisions [of ObamaCare], he wants to keep them - two things that I would assume people – most people are in favor of?

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For The White House: IL Senator On Romney's Health Plan"]

DURBIN: Widely popular-

ROSE: Yeah-

DURBIN: This is the part of ObamaCare Republicans could never explain - 1.6 million young people now are covered under their parents' plan. It's a good idea, because, you know, young people come out of college looking for a job. They get their first job that doesn't have health insurance. They can stay on their parents' plan, and that's part of ObamaCare.

The second part is one that Governor Romney should understand from Massachusetts: the concept of insurance is to bring into the pool healthy people, as well as sick people. And so, if you just bring in sick people when they're sick, it doesn't work. That's why the idea of an individual mandate – personal responsibility – was part of Massachusetts, and part of the Obama plan.

O'DONNELL: Well, I thought the whole point is, you can't get insurance companies to bring in people with pre-existing conditions unless you broaden the base-

DURBIN: That's it-

O'DONNELL: Because they're expensive - people with pre-existing conditions are expensive. So, that's the whole point, I thought, of ObamaCare, was in order to get more people pre-existing coverage, you had to expand the base and mandate that individuals and employers pay for health insurance.


DURBIN: Governor Romney knows it, because he put the mandate in place in Massachusetts for that very same reason, and this is called adverse selection. If you just wait to buy insurance when you're sick, then it doesn't work, and he knows that. And now, he's trying to take the popular part - coverage of people with pre-existing conditions - and not acknowledge the basis for it, which is to bring everybody in, as ObamaCare does. So, he's picking and choosing the pieces he likes, but they don't fit.

ROSE: The impression was, politically, that the Obama health care reform was unpopular in the country. Now, you have this debate going on. Are the Republicans going to emphasize the economy, or are they going to be on dangerous ground if the debate becomes health care?

DURBIN: Well, I think health care is an important issue, but I think the economy is still the overriding issue. This is the one people will look to, and it gets back to what Bill Clinton said at the election [sic] - the arithmetic of the positions of Romney and [Paul] Ryan. And, Norah, you raised this yesterday with Congressman Ryan.  I mean, they are arguing against things that Congressman Ryan has voted for, and they're trying to pick out pieces of ObamaCare that they like. This selective approach - one from column A and one from column B - doesn't make for much of a campaign. But I think they're on the defensive. As Bill Clinton said, the arithmetic is not on their side.

O’DONNELL: Despite all of that, this economy is still going – this election is still going to be about the economy and jobs, and we had a very disappointing jobs report on Friday: just 96,000 new jobs, well below expectations. How does President Obama and the Democrats get elected, given that there's still so much pain and anxiety out there?

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For The White House: IL Senator On Obama Jobs Plan"]

DURBIN: Still, thirty straight months of private sector jobs creation improvement, which is what we want – we'd like to see a faster pace – and a slight downtick in the unemployment rate. We want to see, as I said, a quicker pace. But we put the President's approach, which is showing positive results, against a Romney theory, which doesn't even compute. It doesn't calculate – the arithmetic doesn't work. And we think that's what the voters will come into. They'll take a look at this and say, after all the rhetoric is set aside, why would we stop an improving economy with President Obama's leadership?

ROSE: Quickly turning to local politics in Chicago, the public schools strike.

[CBS News Graphic: "Chicago Teacher Strike: IL Senator On Labor Showdown"]

DURBIN: Twenty-five years since it's happened – it's – it's really devastating, when you think about the impact on families, particularly on the children. And I understand what the mayor is trying to do. He's trying to say to Karen Lewis, with the teachers' union, roll up your sleeves. Let's sit down and get it done. And that's exactly what needs to occur.

ROSE: Because you've also said – go ahead-

O’DONNELL: I was just going to say, but, in the end, it's the children who suffer because-

DURBIN: Absolutely. What are you going to do with these poor kids now? The parents are trying to figure out day care, who's going to watch the kids. They should be in school.

ROSE: So how long will it last?

DURBIN: Well, it's hard to say. The sooner it ends, the better for Chicago.

ROSE: Thank you, Senator.

DURBIN: Thank you.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center